Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Pumpkin Spiced Chocolate Loaf

Here we are and it's almost Fall again.

That means it has been waaaay too long since I last posted.  (I know- what else is new?)  But that also means it's nearly time for my favorite season and favorite holiday, so I'm pretty excited!

As usual, it was an action-packed Spring and Summer for us.  My in-laws are incredibly generous, and took us all to Disney World in April.  OMG.  Can I just tell you that I felt like a kid again myself?

Best. Vacation. EVER.

In May, the Vittles family also gained a niece/cousin - my brother-in-law and sister-in-law welcomed a daughter, Annie, and she is soooo sweet!  Chubby cheeks just like her cousins, and possibly one of the happiest babies I have ever seen!

I think we'll keep her.

In July, we took our annual trip to Canada to my in-laws' house on the St. Lawrence River. Mini got to try her hand at driving the boat, and we did lots of fun activities.

Unfortunately we only got to the beach ONCE all summer, in August while my aunt and cousin were visiting- but that was a great time too.

And now... Mini Smalls is officially a Kindergartener, and the Minion just started nursery school!

They both did so great. No drama or tears from either of them (or from Mama, for that matter!)

The Minion didn't even say goodbye, just made a beeline to the play kitchen to make some food.

Wonder where he gets that from?

As for Miss Mini, I knew she was beyond ready for Kindergarten, but this summer I was still feeling slightly unsure of all the changes that come along with going to school full-time. I was also mourning a little for the end of her toddlerhood (although Lord knows there were plenty of days over the last 5+ years that I longed for more independent and rational days ahead!).

In the weeks leading up, I bought us matching bracelets to go with a sweet poem I had seen online, and wondered how she would do that first day. Would she be nervous to ride on the bus? Would she feel anxious about spending the whole day at school, away from family and the babysitter she's known since she was a newborn? Would she have any fears of this new routine?

Spoiler alert: No, no, and no.

The night before the big day, I presented her with the bracelet and read her the poem. She hugged me tightly, seeming to enjoy idea of us wearing matching bracelets - but showed no signs of anxiety.

She got something called 'Jitter Glitter' at orientation from her teacher - she was supposed to sprinkle it on her head the night before her first day, to calm her nerves.  However, I think she was more excited to have an excuse to pour glitter on her noggin than to ward away any potential jitters.

She also read a book she received from her nursery school at Pre-K graduation, called "The Night Before Kindergarten." Overall, it was a pleasant, drama-free evening.  After the kids went to bed, I braved the crazy last-minute, back-to-school shoppers of Walmart to get her the pizza Lunchable she had wanted (which I had regretted saying 'no' to in the grocery store, a few days before).

The next morning, she literally could not wait to get to the bus stop. She rushed us through pictures, and power-walked to the corner. We were by far the first ones there, even beating some other neighbors who took an earlier bus to a different school.

She pranced around in her backpack, anxiously awaiting her friend and her friend's older brother to come from around the corner. The latter two are veterans, in 2nd and 5th grade respectively, and chattered excitedly about where they would sit on the bus, where their classrooms were, and what Mara could expect at school.

When the bus finally came, and her friend thoughtfully led her by the hand to a seat they would share, I found that I wasn't at all sad or emotional like I thought I might be.

She was ready.

And so was I.

I'm sure the year will come with its ups and downs, but it makes a mama happy to see that her children feel ready and prepared for the next chapter in their lives- even if the book isn't very long yet.

In the meantime, I am also totally ready for Fall.  I bought a stash of  pumpkin-scented candles at Bath & Body Works.  I didn't care that it was 90-something degrees with 100% humidity the last week of August - I lit them anyway.

I ask the kids almost daily what they want to be for Halloween. (I'll stop when their answers are consistent).

Instead of being disgusted by the Autumn and even Halloween displays in stores in August, they only served to escalate my anticipation.

I made my own pumpkin spice syrup so I could enjoy a "PSL" before Starbucks was even ready to unleash the fall flavor.

I changed our holiday banner in the dining room from flag bunting to glittery leaves, the first week of September.

And finally, I created this Pumpkin Spiced Chocolate Loaf to share with anyone whose excitement for Fall matches mine.

A couple years ago, I bought a candy bar at a local chocolate shop that was spiced chocolate, and I realized that these flavors go together way better than most people (myself included) give them credit for.

If you are a fan of autumn spices and chocolate, I hope you will give it a try. I don't think you will be disappointed!

Pumpkin Spiced Chocolate Loaf

  • 1/2 C. butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 1/2 C. granulated sugar
  • 1 C. packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 C. canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 3/4 C. buttermilk (can add 3/4 t. vinegar to regular milk if you do not have any)
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour, spooned & leveled
  • 3/4 C. cocoa powder + a little extra for dusting pan
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon 
  • powdered sugar, for dusting finished loaf (optional)
Heat oven to 325 degrees F.  Butter & lightly dust an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan w/cocoa powder and dump out excess. (Note: I recommend a glass loaf pan - if using metal, it may not need to be in the oven as long as the recipe calls for).

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, spices together until well-combined.  Set aside.

In a large measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk pumpkin into buttermilk.  Set aside.

In large bowl of electric mixer, on medium speed, cream butter until smooth.  Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add egg and mix well.  Then add buttermilk mixture and vanilla. Beat until combined (mixture will be soupy with chunks of butter, this is ok).

Add dry ingredients to wet and stir together with a spoon until just combined and no flour streaks remain - do not overmix.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, and bake 60-70 minutes in preheated oven or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool 10-15 minutes in pan on rack, then turn out loaf onto rack to cool completely. When cooled, dust with powdered sugar in sieve if desired.

Recipe Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's 'Everyday Chocolate Cake'


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